How Parents & Bystanders Should Handle Children In Public

Don’t be bullied from bad experiences during social outings. It gets easier, just don’t stop trying.

By Bridgette Bayley

We have all been there when someone’s baby causes a scene. You’re sitting down… enjoying a nice meal and then someone else’s seemingly badly behaved child ruins your experience.

But, what is the child really doing wrong? Are they acting out… or are they acting their age? What’s the difference?

As a parent, I feel the judgments daily. At the grocery store, the gas station, and everywhere else. Even at the park, where there are other parents who you would expect to empathize.

Yet, when my tiny person loses his tiny mind, I don’t feel sympathy from others. Instead, I feel the eyes of the public looking to me like “wow her kid is out of control” or “can’t she stop that child?”

Children are people. They have wants, needs, desires, bad moods and evolving personalities. When my son’s basic needs are met, he is naturally more pleasant to be around. If he is tired, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable, guess what? His attitude changes based on his mood.

Crazy, right? No, it really isn’t.

Your child is not an animal to be tamed or something to manage. Your child needs to be taught how to handle life, reality, patience and social situations. The term “it takes a village” does not mean to me that my neighbor is responsible for my child.

I would argue that it means to me that other shoppers at Publix or restaurant patrons recognize their role as peers and

If my son is upset and I’m currently working with him to calm down, handing him toy after toy, or trying to find a song on my phone or his tablet to keep his attention, please look away.

When you enter the public and join society… you’re deciding to place yourself in situations with people of all races, genders AND AGES. I am not going to lock my son and I in the house until it’s guaranteed he won’t want to play instead of sit still at dinner.

Does this mean you should sit back while parents ignore their screaming destructive children that run through businesses breaking and grabbing things?

No, you can have an opinion. But, before you decide to speak up – please assess the situation beforehand.

Are the parents present?

If someone is neglecting their child, chatting on their phone while their toddler runs amuck, SAY SOMETHING- to the parent, not to the child.

If the parent is following their child and/or giving them their attention, MIND YOUR BUSINESS. If I’m already asking my son to please calm down, I don’t need your negative looks or comments and neither do other parents.

How old are the children?

If someone has a young child who is curious by items in an aisle and is reaching out for things but the parent is putting it back or asking them to stop/attempting to correct the behavior… MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

If a child is grade school age or older and you believe they should know better… MIND YOUR BUSINESS. It’s just not for you to make decisions with a strangers child, regardless of what you’re thinking they should or should not know.

What is the social setting?

If a kid is running around a park, Chuck E. Cheese, or a toy store… MIND YOUR BUSINESS. This is part of the purpose these places serve, kids need to have public places where they are comfortable.

If a child is running around your favorite wine bar… SPEAK TO THE STAFF… have a quiet word with your server, you don’t need to ask for the manager, you don’t need to make a scene.

Is anyone being harmed/in danger- including the child? If no one, including the child are in danger or currently being harmed, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

If the child is throwing things at another child, or climbing something unsafe, putting themself or another at risk, SAY SOMETHING.. do no engage the child unless parents are not present and even still, go ahead and say “hey, is this your child?”

That alone will call attention and they will come pry their small monkey off what ever they’ve perched themselves on and will probably thank you for the concern and for respectfully looking out.

Do you have a relationship with the parent or child?

If you are somewhere and are unfamiliar with someone and their children… MIND YOUR BUSINESS. Your role as a member of society isn’t to preach or police people in how much soda they’re giving their children or not giving them, just eat your sandwich and move the hell on.

If you know someone and their kids… MIND YOUR BUSINESS… parenting is stressful. Everyone’s lives are different and stress affects us all differently.

Parents…what can you do to help avoid tantrums or outbursts in public? Be prepared. Did your kid nap? Eat? Go potty?

Make sure your little one is well rested. Feed them and use the bathroom or change diapers before heading out. Bring snacks and water with you, wherever you go.

Know your child. Have a favorite song, video, or toy for emergencies. Engage your child in what you’re doing.

If your child is bored they are more likely to act out. So at the grocery store play a game, let them put the veggies in the produce bag, let them look at the eggs with you for cracks, let them swipe the card at the register.

Also remember… you are not in public to please other people. You have errands to run, meals to eat, and your time is just as valuable as everyone else.

Don’t be bullied from bad experiences during social outings. It gets easier, just don’t stop trying.

These moments that seem like nightmares are memories. They are Thanksgiving dinner stories down the road. “Remember when Jenny ran down the aisle of Lowes with a wrench..”


Bridgette Bayley is an Avalon Park resident, UCF computer science student, and mother of one.